Nancy Richler had to rewrite over half of her latest novel before knowing it was ready for print.
The recent Giller Prize nominee will be reading and discussing the taxing process behind The Imposter Bride this Sunday at the seventh annual Kingston WritersFest.
With 60 writers spearheading over 45 events in four days, the festival is meant to share ideas on the process of writing as well as showcase Kingston’s literary scene.
Having lived just outside of Kingston many years ago, Richler told me she hopes to catch a glimpse of what the city’s literary culture has become.
“I don’t really know the scene,” she said. “That’s one of the nice things about going to the festival.”
Richler currently resides in Montreal, though she considers Vancouver her home. She left the coastal city to take care of her elderly parents, a decision that’s mirrored in the author’s family-centric books.
The Imposter Bride is a novel about Lily Azerov, a fictional young woman who migrated from Poland to post-war Montreal. The story was inspired by a family event — Richler’s grandmother’s move to Montreal as a young Jewish woman.
As writers typically do, Richler said, it took her a long time to find the right voice for the story.
After tearing out half of the finished draft, Richler said she took a long walk in the mountains in Vancouver.
Her novel’s saving grace, a narrative voice in the form of Lily’s daughter, Ruth, arrived the next morning.
“I was just sitting there over a coffee and the first sentence of the new voice came to me,” she said. “It was just there.”
It’s a struggle that comes with every writer’s creative process, Richler said. It’s something she said she hopes to address at WritersFest when speaking to new budding writers.
“It’s important to talk about it. People can get discouraged and I don’t think people realize that that’s part of the deal — feeling discouraged, hitting a wall and getting beyond it.”
Through various writer workshops, talks and readings, the Kingston WritersFest is set to see about 5,000 people this year.
It’s also the first year that the festival will feature playwrights, with Judith Thompson and former Queen’s Playwright in Residence Christopher Morris.
Both will be hosting writer’s studios, which are workshops for writers focusing on a specific part of their craft, like humour writing or fantasy writing.
One of the most anticipated events is a reading and discussion by Nigerian/American author Teju Cole and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and novelist Michael Ondaatje, who graduated from Queen’s in the late 1960s. The two are part of an event called “International Marquee” that will feature an on-stage conversation with poet and novelist Dionne Brand. The event, which takes place Wednesday evening at the Grand Theatre, has yet to sell out.
The Kingston WritersFest runs from Sept. 26 to 30.
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